Kenyan middle-distance runner David Rudisha is known the world over for his remarkable running skills. At the Rio Olympic Games he became the first man to retain the 800m title since New Zealand’s Peter Snell in 1964.
It also marked Kenya’s fifth ever medal in the event. Now the world record holder is targeting a record third successive Olympic gold medal in four year’s time.
I realised I could run after finding out that my dad used to run
What inspired you to start running?
It was seeing my father’s silver medal from the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City. He was in the 400m relay team. I realised I could run after finding out that my dad used to run, and it gave me the morale that if he did it then maybe I could also run.
How did winning in Rio compare to your gold medal at the London 2012 Olympic Games?
London was one of the special races, the race in which I broke the world record. But this one was so special and the greatest moment of my career. To defend my title was difficult as nobody else has done it since Peter Snell in 1964.
It also comes after my disappointing years in 2013 and 2014 when I was losing a lot of races. But winning the world title in 2015 really boosted my morale and I knew my form was coming. This was a great performance and I am so proud and happy with myself.
Do you think you will go for gold again in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games?
That is my focus now that this is over. It takes a lot of discipline and dedication to maintain your form and you have to make a lot of sacrifices to stay at the top. There is a lot of pressure when you are Olympic champion.
You have to handle the pressure.
People want to see you perform all the time and there is high expectation. You have to handle the pressure and try to understand the situation as well as doing the right thing, working hard and being humble.
Were you surprised you were able to run such a fast time in Rio?
Running 1:42, it’s just fantastic. I had no doubts before. The feeling in my body was good. It was great to win such a big competition, my second gold. It’s so great. I was so excited. It is the greatest moment of my career.
Tell us a bit more about how you have coped with those injury problems a few years ago?
It’s been very difficult. I have stayed focused and positive. My coach has been great and given me hope. I dedicate my success to God.
And what about your tactics for the 800m final. Did it all go to plan?
My plan was to run from the front as usual. I talked to my Kenyan colleagues and told them I was going to lead the race, but the gun went and Alfred Kipketer ran the first 200 (metres) like a bullet, so I slowed down a bit as I felt it was a bit too high. I knew I was in good form and sometimes if you start too fast it can cost you in the last 100m and that is what I wanted to be aware of.
I knew it was going to be hard.
It is unfortunate they did not follow what I said as it cost them. Usually I like to look at the big screen just to see where the position of my opponents is, but coming into the home stretch, I knew it was going to be hard and I wanted just to maintain my focus, to maintain my stride all the way to the finish.
How did you feel after the heats and going into the final?
I knew I was in good form. There’s no doubt about that and I was confident because I was finding the power for finishing in the last 100 (metres). So I think I was in a position to control (the races) again.
Are you back to your best now?
Between last year and this year there is a huge difference. I feel like I’m in better form now. Better, almost close to my body in the years 2010-2012. I’ve never felt as good as in previous years, since I got injured.
What are your views on the reported problems of athletes doping in Kenya?
The issues about doping has been a big problem. There have been a lot of allegations going around but when the president signed a deal a few months ago, that was a big boost and will help reduce the vices. It’s always disappointing to see athletes involved in such activity as we want to see athletes compete with the fairness and integrity of sport maintained.
What was it like being in Brazil as defending Olympic champion?
There was a lot of pressure, of course, coming as a defending champion, as a world record holder, as a world champion. There’s a lot of expectations but I did my best, that’s all I can say.